Looking to buy a new car this year? The Saturn L scores best among family sized cars in eight categories, including safety features and crash tests, according to a veteran consumer advocate.

The Mercury Villager and Nissan Quest are the highest rated minivans based on the same eight criteria.

The ratings come from the 2002 edition of The Ultimate Car Book, published in cooperation with the Center for Auto Safety, an advocacy group founded by consumer advocate Ralph Nader. The book was released Tuesday.

The book rated cars, small trucks, minivans and SUVs by crash tests, safety features, repair and maintenance costs, fuel economy, complaints, warranties and insurance costs. He listed 38 cars and trucks in 10 categories as his best bets for 2002.

The other top-rated cars included the following family sized or intermediate models: Ford Taurus, Volkswagen Passat, Dodge Intrepid and Stratus, Honda Accord and Volvo S80. Other top-rated minivans included the Chrysler Town and Country and Pontiac Montana. The top rated large sport utility vehicles were the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition.

``These are the cars that do the best in the criteria we think are important, which is heavily weighted toward safety,'' said the book's author, Jack Gillis, director of public affairs for the Consumer Federation of America, an advocacy group. ``Crash tests and safety features are prominent.''

Gillis wrote the original consumer guide while working for the Transportation Department. When the guide was killed by the Reagan administration, Gillis began working with the Center for Auto Safety and publishing it privately.

The book also lists the vehicles based on the number of consumer complaints filed with the federal government and the number of vehicles sold. The vehicles with the fewest complaints per models sold were the Ford F-Series pickup truck, BMW 3 Series and BMW 5 Series. The vehicles with the most complaints were the Mazda MPV minivan, Kia Sportage SUV and Ford Excursion SUV.

While the Ford F-Series is the only recommended standard-sized pickup truck, the two BMW models are not rated. That is because there were no government crash tests done on either car. Gillis said the crash test is so important in determining whether a car is safe that the book does not rate any vehicle that hasn't been tested.

The federal government has increased the number of cars it crashes to see how well they hold up in accidents.